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Memoirs & Machinations; The Story of an Artist

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February 11th, 2290

Khan Tengri Peak, Tian Shan Mountains, Kazakh-Chinese Border

 

"Get one of Dottie, next!," cried Lyanna as she passed the camera off to her brother.

 

"Alright, alright," he replied, bringing the device up before snapping the photograph of his eccentric companion posing atop the peak of the mountain. He had a big dumb grin on his face. The woman in the red jacket pulled up her goggles. Her cheek bones could be seen raising, which implied that she was reciprocating the gesture. The camera was passed back as the larger gentleman took Ylva's spot, bringing up two thumbs up in order to pose for his sister behind the lens.

 

"Weren't expecting to make it, eh?" Lyanna asked as she side-glanced the other woman standing off in her peripheral.

 

"We always make it," Ylva replied. The other sat contemplative for a few moments before she finally piped up again.

 

"You just watch, Ylva Hilmarsdottir. One day we won't be so lucky!" she chided, albeit with a tone that was only was half serious. Tongue in cheek Ylva was for a few moments, while she thought of yet another of her usual witticisms. Nothing. Instead, she only opted to wrap her arms around her friend from behind. After a moment or two, something came to mind;

 

"You just watch, Lyanna Hrafnkell. One day you'll grow out of your cynical ways," she teased, accompanied by a brief kiss on the cheek once her scarf was pulled down. The provocative gesture prompted the other to let the camera dangle, turning and throwing herself at her aggressor.

 

Both of them tumbled down into the snow, causing a groan to come from Gabor. "Careful, Dottie. That one's a fighter," he remarked. "You'll bite off more than you can chew, with her!" The remark in and of itself wouldn't have been significant to anyone else, except the two women who were in the snow.

 

January 30th, 2278

Hafnarfjörður, Western Territory, Iceland

 

"Oh, crap. Dottie! Father's going to -kill- us!" was the first thing she heard when she opened her eyes. Lyanna was looking down at her, wide-eyed and mortified at the situation.

 

"Hey, way to go slugger!" Gabor exclaimed as he began cackling manically with enough sarcasm to feed the entirety of Hesperus as he patted his sister on the back.

 

The last thing Ylva remembered was that she was pretending to sword fight with Lyanna. The two of them were sparring with wooden sticks taken from a nearby tree in the park they were in. Her eyes were all watery and her nose really, really damp. It felt warm, her face. She removed a mitten and reached up to touch at the damp sensation that felt like it was running down her lips and chin, only to realize that she was bleeding pretty badly. Her nose hurt worse and worse as sensation returned to her.

 

"I didn't mean to hit her in the face!" Lyanna fussed like the twelve year old that she was. In the meantime, Gabor took a knee and helped her stand. Her held felt wobbly, but she was fine otherwise. At least, she would have been if her nose weren't gushing down the front of her jacket.

 

This wasn't the first time Ylva found herself being an unfortunate casualty of roughhousing and horseplay. Unlike Lyanna, Ylva took more after Gabor when it came to personality traits. Most things that Lyanna found interesting, she was bored to death of. Lyanna went so far as to accuse her of 'secretly being a boy', which lead to both of the siblings teasing her for a long while. It was never problematic. Gabor knelt back down and collected a chunk of snow in his hands, which he raised towards Ylva. "Your dad's gonna' murder us if he found out Leah smacked you with a stupid branch! You've gotta' clean it!"

 

If the trio weren’t out climbing trees or playing ‘FEDS Versus Aliens’, they found themselves exploring. The idea of exploration had always fascinated Ylva, especially when it came to the idea of outer space. She envied spacers and astronauts, who were able to come and go as they pleased from the various spaceports littered around the harbor. After using more than a few handfuls of snow, she managed to ‘wash’ the blood off of her face. While she didn’t like lying to her father about their adventures, not only did it keep them out of trouble, but it kept him from having to have an adult accompany them on their endeavors.

 

February 11th, 2290

Khan Tengri Peak, Tian Shan Mountains, Kazakh-Chinese Border

 

"Dottie?" Lyanna called again, snapping her out of her daydream. Ylva's eyes focused, seeing the other straddling her and looking down, looming over.  "You're going to miss the sunset," she said as she got off and offered the other a hand. She stood and moved over beside Gabor, who had a pair of binoculars held up to his eyes in order to survey the scenery. At the base of their mountain lie a hotspring with lush, green foliage surrounding it in the midst of the glacier. Over the horizon, a beautiful sunset.

 

Paradise lost, Ylva thought.

 

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January 11th, 2298

AFC BC-291 Ulysses S. Grant

 

Half-Four galactic standard, and you still couldn't sleep. It bit into your heart like a bitter hole, a cancer. You couldn't move. It was hard to tell if that was what you wanted, or if you just couldn't bring yourself to. Nine years down the drain, just like that. Over a lousy phone call. Not even a video call, a phone call. It punched you in the gut and made breathing difficult, a chore. If something so involuntary was so hard, what did that mean to say for the things that you had to do of your own accord? They just have to wait for a little while, that's all.

 

"You selfish bastard, you promised!"  Her words resonated in your head. You could hear your heart pounding in your ears, thudding as it ached in a way you didn't quite understand. You could hear her crying as she said it. But you weren't selfish, were you? At least, that's what you would have liked to believe. With a civil war breaking out, there was no way you could just leave, right? It was your duty. Your obligation to stay; For the people you served with. They all stayed, you would have been the coward to run away from it all. Wouldn't you? You re-enlisted because it tore you up to think about what it would be like to die alone. In your final moments, you'd want someone to kneel by you and hold your hand until your heart stopped. You gave that up for yourself, so that you could provide that service to someone else. Sometimes doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes doing the right thing could be the most wrong thing you ever do. She didn't want to wait another four years. She'd waited long enough. You broke your promise to the person who loved you the most in the world, and it left you feeling a way that you just didn't have words for.

 

Your fondest memory was the last time that the two of you spoke before your enlistment. It felt like so long ago, those eight years. A lifetime had passed for you, while for her it was only a few short years. School, a job, move once or twice. You on the other hand had gone through hundreds of acquaintances, friends and comrades. Some lasted longer than others, some you didn't even know the names of. How does one explain the obligation to someone who had never served a day in their life? She kissed you outside of the shuttle port. It was cold, winter. "You come back to me, you hear?" she whispered in your ear. It sent shivers down your spine, and it almost made you regret enlisting in the first place.

 

Now you couldn't even remember her face.

 

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